You could tell pretty easily Saturday who had walked north on Hargett Street to get to the Raleigh Rescue Mission’s annual open house and street festival. They were the festivalgoers, many pushing strollers, wearing the puzzled expressions because they had just passed fenced-in Moore Square with its garden of huge white tents and black stages and its snaking line of people waiting to get in.
Had the Raleigh Rescue Mission expanded its usual offerings of booths of fun and food along two blocks of Hargett to include Moore Square this year as well?
The overwhelming odor of beer wafting over the square and the mission festivities was the first clue that the answer was no.
I discovered later that Moore Square was the site Saturday of the sold-out World Beer Festival. Hundreds of people paid $40 apiece (some of which went to “benefiting charities”) to sample 300 beers from 150 breweries.
Of course, the disconnect worked the other way, too. More than a few happy beer patrons — one group wearing Carolina Tar Heel T-shirts and pretzel necklaces, no lie — clomped down the sidewalk through the Rescue Mission festival toward Moore Square, looking around as if they had landed on Mars.
It seemed to be a pretty sad coincidence -- that beer smell and the loud roars of revelers hanging over us -- given how many people living at the mission are there because of alcoholism or addictions. The first item on the mission’s Web site, in fact, says: “Children grow up in alcoholic homes. It’s a hard reality and a story we hear over and over from men and women who enter Raleigh Rescue Mission’s recovery program. And the sad consequences are often a repetition of their parents’ mistakes.”
That’s not to cast aspersions on Saturday’s beer tasters. It’s not their fault the Raleigh Rescue Mission’s festival was scheduled the same day.
Once the church band* performing at the mission cranked up, though, sending up some loud lyrics about God and grace, we couldn’t decide whether the day’s dual festivals were the result of horrendously bad planning — or divine.
Maybe a few folks under those white tents could use a message of mercy.
*full disclosure: this band included me.